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23o             A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
four notables, four venerable men of superior rank and mentality; they were sheikhs, to judge by their faces and dress, and with their flowing silken robes made picturesque figures. All were aged, grey-haired men. That worn-out hero of flapper novels, the handsome young desert sheikh who kidnaps beautiful English damsels, may be found in England perhaps, but he is certainly nowhere here in Egypt.
Sheikh Abu Shrump, the only man I knew in the whole assembly, was among them. He welcomed me cordially and introduced me to the Chief of Karnak, to ancfther sheikh, who both touched their foreheads and breasts in urbane acknowledgment, and then to the Chief of the village and surrounding district; his name was Sheikh Mekki Gahba, and it was outside his house that the verandah had been raised. He immediately pressed me to have the inevitable coffee; which offer, fortunately, I was able to change into milkless tea.
I took my place upon one of the cushions which lay on the platform next to my friend, Sheikh Abu Shrump, who lived in the village of Kurna on the other side of the Nile, and who was the most famous and respected holy man in the region of Luxor for twenty miles around.
He was a pious follower of the Prophetódespite his reputation as one who controlled the genii and made powerful talismansó and gloried in the fact that he had made the Pilgrimage to Mecca. He wore a flat green turban around his head. His heavy moustache, side-whiskers, and short beard had turned white. His dark-skinned face was genial but grave, pleasant but dignified, His eyes were noticeably large and in repose gave one an impression of profundity. A long, loose-fitting, brown -robe of thick material fell to his ankles, Upon the fourth finger of his right hand he wore an enormous silver ring, whose surface bore an Arabic inscription.
The Omdeh (Mayor) of Luxor had brought me the invitation to attend this gathering and insisted on my acceptance. We had met in the street, one sultry afternoon, and he had given me the Arabic greeting: "May your day be happy," when Sheikh Abu Shrump had dismounted from his gorgeously caparisoned donkey to pay a promised visit and to take tea with me. A few days later the Mayor had called, bearing a joint invitation from himself and the Sheikh to attend a midnight assembly of the Dervishes of Karnak-Luxor district.
I had found my way to this queer meeting, the only European